Expendable Direct Sensing for AUV Based Geotechnical Survey Operations
Navy STTR FY2014A - Topic N14A-T022
ONR - Steve Sullivan - steven.sullivan@navy.mil
Opens: March 5, 2014 - Closes: April 9, 2014 6:00am EST

N14A-T022 TITLE: Expendable Direct Sensing for AUV Based Geotechnical Survey Operations

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Sensors, Electronics, Battlespace

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Littoral Battlespace Sensing - Unmanned Undersea Vehicles ACAT IV

OBJECTIVE: Develop a direct measure seabed characterization system that is low cost, either AUV mountable or self-contained, and has the potential to operate at depths down to 100 meters.

DESCRIPTION: Increasingly, autonomous vehicles equipped with acoustic systems are employed to carry out missions in littoral waters. In many cases, mission success depends on predictions of how well the acoustic system will perform in the operational environment. A weak link in performance prediction is often due to a lack of knowledge of the operational environment used in the system models. This limitation is particularly acute in the area of environmentally-adaptive automated target recognition (ATR) for Mine Counter-Measures (MCM), which requires training data. These training data are often either fully, or augmented by, simulated data due to the expense of collecting real data. The requirements increase as environmental complexity increases when moving between areas characterized by different features (e.g. sand, sea grass, rock). Currently, the existing seabed characteristic databases do not have sufficient resolution and/or accuracy to support the new adaptive approaches. However, the proliferation of more autonomous platforms offers a potentially efficient means to field sensors and fill this gap.

At present, there exist approaches based on the use of acoustics for use in determining bottom sediment classification necessary for planning and executing MCM or littoral surveillance missions. These approaches rely on post-processing to extract wide-area seabed characteristics, are often time consuming, and provide no ground-truth. In this call, we seek a complimentary approach that is more direct and capable of operating near/on/or in the seabed to provide near immediate initial local classification of the seabed in terms of composition (sand, mud, sea grass) as well as roughness. Segmentation of seabed types would be provided by accumulation of measurements over a spatial domain and/or combining measurements from many sensors. With little or no post-processing, the measurements could be exported to sediment databases or used in-situ for environmentally adaptive algorithms running on a vehicle. These measurements could be used to constrain and/or ground truth other wide area remote sensing approaches and have applications in MCM and mine burial prediction. Advances in commercial products aimed at gaming and action sports suggest the potential for small form factor, possibly expendable, sensing capabilities for this application. The system may be self-contained or delivered by Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV).

PHASE I: Develop the initial concept design for a direct measure seabed characterization system that is low cost, either AUV mountable or self-contained, and can operate at depths down to 100 meters. The concept design should identify the most promising sensing technologies and the envisioned packaging or platform. It should also address expected area coverage rates, geospatial registration and segmentation, data storage, and if applicable concepts for in-situ use of and/or exfiltration of data.

PHASE II: Develop a prototype system and demonstrate its capabilities for data collection and seabed classification in a realistic undersea environment. Phase II will include development of hardware but a completely functional prototype is not required; however, the feasibility and the expected performance of a final design should be clearly evident within the demonstration.

PHASE III: Contractors shall work with the Navy and their contractors to implement the system developed in this program for integration with the Littoral Battlespace Sensing –Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (LBS-UUV) Program of Record.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: A dual use application will be basic and applied research related to Geoacoustic and Geotechnical Inversion and Survey technique development, as well as a potential tool for offshore construction projects (e.g. wind farms).

1. Lyons, A.P., et al., "Characterization of the two-dimensional roughness of wave-rippled sea floors using digital photogrammetry," IEEE J. Ocean. Eng., vol. 27 (2002).

2. Khoshelham, K. and Elberink, S.O.,"Accuracy and resolution of Kinect depth data for indoor mapping applications," Sensors, vol. 12 (2012).

3. Maffione, R.A., "Evolution and revolution in measuring ocean optical properties," Oceanography, vol. 14 (2001).

KEYWORDS: Unmanned undersea vehicles; littoral; sensor; inversion; survey

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